5. What can be done if your brain is injured?

In the event of a blow to the head or other trauma that causes your brain to swell, the swelling can sometimes be reduced by drugs. Doctors may change the breathing pattern on the ventilator to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in your bloodstream, give you medicines to cause your kidneys to get rid of extra fluid, and position your body with your head elevated to encourage the swelling to reduce. In extreme cases, pressure from brain swelling is monitored by placing a small tube (catheter) into the space around the brain or into the fluid space deep within the brain. The strategies used to reduce the pressure can be monitored this way, and occasionally some of the fluid that normally bathes your brain (cerebrospinal fluid) is taken out. Over time (hours to days) if the brain injury recovers, the swelling may go down. If not, brain death may result.

If there is bleeding around your brain (epidural or subdural hematoma), that can be treated by an operation to remove the blood and relieve the pressure it is causing. In the case of a burst cerebral aneurysm, surgery may be performed to repair it, depending on its location and the condition of the patient.

For a gunshot wound, depending on the extent of the damage, surgery to remove the bullet may be necessary. This is a complex decision that depends on how much injury has occurred, the location of the bullet in relation to vital structures in the brain, the amount of destroyed brain tissue, and the likelihood of recovery.

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